Calling a vaccination “the most patriotic thing you can do,” President Joe Biden on Sunday mixed the nation’s birthday party with a celebration of freedom from the aftermath of the pandemic. He tempered the steps forward against COVID-19 with a warning that the fight against the virus was not over.
“Today, across this nation, we can say with confidence: America is coming back together,” Biden said as he hosted more than 1,000 service members, first responders and other guests for a July 4th celebration on the Prairie. South of the White House. .
For Biden it was a long-awaited opportunity to highlight the success of the vaccination campaign he has endured. The event was the largest of its presidency, the clearest indication so far that America was entering a new phase of virus response. Going from a national emergency to a localized crisis of individual responsibility, the nation is also moving from vaccinating Americans to promoting global health.
“This year the Fourth of July is a special holiday, which brings us out of the darkness of a year of pandemic and isolation, a year of fear of pain and excruciating loss,” the president said before fireworks illuminate the sky and the National Mall.
Noting the blocks that have closed businesses, put millions of people out of work and separated a number of families, Biden said: “Today we are closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus. That’s not to say that the battle against COVID-19 is over. We have a lot more work to do. “
Biden wanted all Americans to celebrate again, after enduring 16 months of disruption in the pandemic and more than 605,000 deaths. The White House has encouraged rallies and fireworks across the country to mark – as if torn from a Hollywood script – the nation’s “independence” from the virus.
And there was much to rejoice about: Cases and deaths from COVID-19 were at or near record lows since the fire began, thanks to the robust U.S. immunization program. Businesses and restaurants were open, hiring was on the rise and travel was approaching pre-pandemic levels.
However, Biden’s optimism was measured for good reason. The vaccination target he had set with great fanfare for the Fourth of July – 70% of the vaccinated adult population – has dropped to 67%, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More worrying for officials was the gap between heavily vaccinated communities where the virus was dying and those less vaccinated where a more infectious variant of the virus was already taking over.
More than 200 Americans are still dying every day from COVID-19, and tens of millions have chosen not to have life-saving vaccines.
“If you’ve had the vaccination, do it right,” said Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo Davis, an infectious disease doctor at the John Cochran VA Medical Center and St. Louis Health Council. “If you don’t have the vaccine, you have to be alarmed and that’s just the bottom line. There’s no easy way to cut it.”
“But that doesn’t eliminate the fact that this country is in a much better place,” he said.
However, about 1,000 people have a vaccination rate of less than 30%, and the federal government warns that they could become the next hot spots when virus restrictions ease.
The administration sent “surge” teams to Colorado and Missouri. Additional teams of infectious disease experts, public health professionals and doctors and nurses were preparing to help in additional areas with a combination of low vaccination rates and rising cases.
Overall, the much-improved American landscape was in stark contrast to most of the rest of the world, where vast vaccination deserts remained and a large community that could open the door to even more dangerous variants. The Biden administration was increasingly turning the federal response to the complicated logistics of sending U.S. vaccines in excess abroad in an effort to help other nations fight the pandemic.
With U.S. demand for vaccines falling even though they have been widely available for months, and governments and businesses hanging a series of incentives on Americans to get a shot, officials are increasingly emphasized that the consequences of the disease largely reflect the individual choices of those who are not yet vaccinated.
“The suffering and loss we see now is almost entirely avoidable,” said CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
When asked about the potential risks of holding meetings around the fourth of July in areas where there are large pockets of unvaccinated individuals, White House press secretary Jen Psaki had countered that “if individuals they are vaccinated in those areas, so they are protected. ”
The cookout and fireworks in the South Lawn were “done in the right way,” Jeff Zients, White House response coordinator COVID-19, said in television interviews, and “consistent” with the guidelines. CDC. The White House did not need vaccinations, but asked guests to get a COVID-19 test and put on a mask if they were not completely vaccinated.
“As much work as there is still to be done, it’s so important to celebrate the victories,” Davis said. “They agree with us that we have these bags of joy and celebration as long as we always wake up the next day and continue to go to work and give priority to equity in the distribution of vaccines.”